The Laurel High football team traveled to Clairton last night with high hopes.
It returned bent — but not broken — according to head coach Brian Cooper.
The previously unbeaten Spartans dropped a 33-7 nonconference road decision to the Bears. Laurel (4-1) came into the game ranked No. 1 in the WPIAL Class 1A ranks, while Clairton (3-2) was No. 3.
Laurel was the lone team in the WPIAL and one of only two teams in the state that had not allowed a point as of last night. The Spartans were outscoring opponents 135-0 through four games.
“We were in the game through the first two quarters, but then the wheels fell off,” Laurel coach Brian Cooper said. “We had a couple more injuries including (running back/inside linebacker) Cam Smith and couldn’t stop the big play.”
The Spartans were playing without star running back Luke McCoy, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament last week against California and is lost for the year. In addition, several other players are nursing injuries and one might be out for the season, although Cooper declined to say who until it was confirmed.
Laurel scored on its opening drive when Daniel Blank crossed the pay station from 4 yards out. Zachary Main kicked the point after. Less than 3 minutes later, Clairton scored on a 2-yard run by Brendan Parsons.
“We went right down and scored on our first drive, but they went down and answered,” Cooper said. “We just seemed to lose our momentum after that. We got two interceptions and a fumble recovery but didn’t capitalize. We had a fourth and 3 on their 20 and were inside their 10 on another drive and lost the ball on downs both times.
“We let their offense stay on the field too long,” he added. “You just can’t let an explosive team on the field that long because they’re going to burn you eventually.”
The Spartans were still within striking distance 21-7 after three quarters, but the Bears pushed across two late touchdowns in the fourth to put the game out of reach.
Blank led all rushers with 37 yards on eight carries. Quarterback Will Shaffer completed just 2 of 18 attempts for 24 yards and an interception.
Laurel returns to Big Seven Conference play Friday night at home against Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.
“We have to just chalk this up to a learning experience and get ready for section play,” Cooper said. “It was an important game but not a section game. Now we have to get better and get to where we want to be.
“We have to push onward and find ourselves again.”